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Press Release

Alaska AG's Brief Supports U.S. Supreme Court Decision

July 8, 2020

(Anchorage, AK) – Today, Alaska Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson lauded the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, 19-267; St. James School v. Biel, 19-348. In this decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court held that the “ministerial exception” ― which prevents civil courts from adjudicating an employment discrimination claim brought by ministers against their religious employer ― applies to two parochial school teachers who were “entrusted with the responsibility of instructing their students in the faith.”

The Court held that the ministerial exception applies even though the teachers did not have the title of “minister,” because “religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission.”  The Court ruled that judicial review of the way religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions and would not be tolerated by the First Amendment.

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson authorized the State of Alaska to write an amicus brief, joined by sixteen other states, in support of the schools’ religious freedom.  Attorney General Clarkson says, "This decision is an important recognition of the role teachers play in any faith community. By ensuring that religious schools are free to decide who will teach the tenets of their faith, the United States Supreme Court takes a strong stand for our religious freedoms.”

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Department Media Contact:Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or maria.bahr@alaska.gov.